A bachelor's degree is required for nearly all financial analyst positions, and the majority of job listings state that employers prefer candidates with a master's degree. Many analysts also hold master's and doctoral degrees in a finance-related field or business administration. Financial analysts should be detail-oriented, good at mathematics and enjoy working with numbers. Students will find that some schools offer financial programs online.
Bachelor's in Finance
A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Finance introduces students to a number of financial topics. Students learn practical approaches to financial issues. Most undergraduate finance programs can be completed in four years or less. General education courses are usually required as part of the curriculum. Some course topics in these programs typically include:
- Cost management
- Financial analysis
- English composition
Master's in Finance
A Master of Science (M.S.) in Finance is a scientific degree program that emphasizes theoretical financial topics and quantitative research methods. Students learn to apply research and use financial modeling. Most M.S. degree programs in finance may be completed in two years or less and require the completion of a master's thesis. Some course topics might include:
- Financial econometrics
- Financial markets
- Corporate finance
- Financial accounting
Master of Business Administration Programs
Students enrolled in Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs usually offer the option to specialize in finance. Students concentrating in finance may learn advanced techniques in financial analysis, management and systems. An MBA program provides students with advanced study in a range of business topics, such as:
- International business
- Strategic information systems
- Managerial economics
Doctor of Philosophy in Finance
A Doctor of Philosophy in Finance is generally considered to be the field's most advanced degree. A Ph.D. program is a highly scientific course of study that teaches students advanced quantitative analysis methods and financial structures. Graduates of a Ph.D. program in finance may work in research-based careers or in the academic world. A doctoral dissertation is required before graduation. Course topics typically include:
- Corporation finance
- Consumer finance
- Fundamentals of valuation
- Intro to derivative markets
- Directed readings in finance
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Personal financial advisors make a median annual wage of $89,160 as of May 2015, according to the BLS. The employment for these advisors from 2014-2024 is expected to grow 30%, which is much faster than average.
Although licenses are not generally required before being hired, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) offers licenses for employees working in the securities industry. Financial analysts may also become certified by the CFA Institute, which grants the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) title. This requires passing three exams, having four years of work experience and holding a bachelor's degree.
Many workshops are available to financial analysts. Some are geared toward the exams associated with becoming a CFA. These courses review important accounting topics and are often divided into three sections, which correspond with the three CFA exams. Financial analysts generally use Microsoft Excel to create reports and spreadsheets and must know the application well for most positions. Many employers also want candidates to have experience with system conversion and testing. Online training in both Excel and system conversion is available.
While some financial analysis jobs only require a bachelor's degree in finance, most employers seek financial analyst with a master's degree in the field. Doctoral degrees are also available for financial analyst interested in research-based careers or in the academia.